TAREA Resumen lectura 1 The Selfish Gene
Monterrey, N.L. Febrero 13, 2012
WHY ARE PEOPLE? Living organisms had existed on earth, without ever knowing why, for over three thousand million years before the truth finally dawned on one of them. His name was Charles Darwin. Philosophy and the subjects known as 'humanities' are still taught almost as if Darwinhad never lived. The author’s purpose is to examine the biology of selfishness and altruism. The erroneous assumption is that the important thing in evolution is the good of the species (or the group) rather than the good of the individual (or the gene). The argument of this book is that we, and all other animals, are machines created by our genes. Our genes have survived, in some cases formillions of years, in a highly competitive world. This entities us to expect certain qualities in our genes. The author argues that a predominant quality to be expected in a successful gene is ruthless selfishness. This gene selfishness will usually give rise to selfishness in individual behavior. However there are special circumstances in which a gene can achieve its own selfish goals best by fosteringa limited form of altruism at the level of individual animals. Our genes may instruct us to be selfish, but we are not necessarily compelled to obey them all our lives. It may just be more difficult to learn altruism than it would be if we were genetically programmed to be altruistic. Among animals, man is uniquely dominated by culture, by influences learned and handed down. Some would say thatculture is so important that genes, whether selfish or not, are virtually irrelevant to the understanding of human nature. Others would disagree. It all depends where you stand in the debate over 'nature versus nurture' as determinants of human attributes. An entity, such as a baboon, is said to be altruistic if it behaves in such a way as to increase another such entity's welfare at the expenseof its own. Selfish behavior has exactly the opposite effect. 'Welfare' is defined as 'chances of survival', even if the effect on actual life and death prospects is so small as to seem negligible. One of the surprising consequences of the modem version of the Darwinian Theory is that apparently trivial tiny influences on survival probability can have a major impact on evolution. This is becauseof the enormous time available for such influences to make themselves felt. An apparently altruistic act is one that looks, superficially, as if it must tend to make the altruist more likely (however slightly) to die and the recipient more likely to survive. Example of selfish behavior: Blackheaded gulls nest in large colonies, the nests being only a few feet apart. When the chicks first hatchout they are small and defenseless and easy to swallow. It is quite common for a gull to wait until a neighbor’s back is turned, perhaps while it is away fishing, and then pounce on one of the neighbor’s chicks and swallow it whole. It thereby obtains a good nutritious meal, without having to go to the trouble of catching a fish, and without having to leave its own nest unprotected. Example ofaltruistic behavior: The stinging behavior of worker bees is a very effective defense against honey robbers. But the bees who do the stinging are kamikaze fighters. In the act of stinging, vital internal organs are usually torn out of the body and the bee dies soon afterwards. Her suicide mission may have saved the colony's vital food stocks, but she herself is not around to reap the benefits. By ourdefinition this is an altruistic behavioral act. Remember that we are not talking about conscious motives.
The commonest and most conspicuous acts of animal altruism are done by parents, especially mothers, towards their children. They may incubate them, either in nests or in their own bodies, feed them at enormous cost to themselves, and take great risks in protecting them from predators....